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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3, episode 1: the show’s new villain, explained

Meet Lash, the mysterious, chest-busting villain in the season premiere of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

At this point, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should just be called "Marvel's Inhumans."

The show's second season finale left us with a major cliffhanger — Terrigen, a material that creates superhumans called Inhumans, was released into the ocean — that promised the third season would be centered on new characters with extraordinary powers.

And the season premiere, "The Laws of Nature" lived up to that promise, focusing on a man named Joe who manifested the power to melt metal with his bare hands. These new characters, of course, present the potential for new superheroes with amazing abilities.

As viewers found out, the Inhuman event also presents the possibility of new villains ready to bring on the devastation. A new mysterious villain, looking like a cross between a porcupine, one of Avatar's Na'vi, and a professional wrestler, made his debut.

"Tell me where to find the Inhuman," were the only words of substance this villain muttered, before zapping a hole into a security guard's chest. We also find out a bevy of dead Inhumans appear to have also met their ends at this man's hands.

But the show didn't really explain too much about this villain, his motivation, or his story. We don't even know his name or the extent of his powers. That's understandable, since we are, after all, on the first episode of the third season.

But Marvel comic books are a different matter. They've already spelled out his ruthless mentality, examined what drives him, and showed us just how merciless he can be.

His name is Lash. And if he's anything like he is in the comic books, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will have their work cut out battling him this season.

Lash is an Inhuman who thinks he's judge, jury, and executioner


To be clear, the world of Marvel comic books and the worlds of Marvel's television series and films are very different. There are storylines and characters (heroes and villains) that Marvel's television and film properties haven't introduced, and vice versa. But that's what makes Lash's inclusion significant — Marvel thinks he's worth knowing.

Lash's first appearance in Marvel's comic books was in Inhuman No. 1 by Charles Soule and Joe Madureira. He appears after a storyline called "Infinity," where a Terrigen bomb has gone off and people all around the world are turning into Inhumans (similar to the Terrigen bomb in the ocean in the TV series). Lash is very interested in these potential Inhumans:

Inhuman No.1. (Marvel)

What we find out later on is that Lash is actually from a hidden Inhuman city called Orollan and that he actually sees the Inhuman transformation (referred to as Terrigensis) as a privilege and a test.

Surviving the transformation is hard enough. Humans who don't have enough Inhuman DNA die during the transformation process. But Lash sees Inhumans with certain powers as more valuable than others:

Inhuman No. 3. (Marvel)

We see him in Inhuman No. 3 allow a boy named Jason to live, because Jason has the power to control rocks and earth. And by that same accord, we see him vaporize a new Inhuman who didn't live up to his standards:

Lash bestowing his judgment upon a new Inhuman. (Marvel)

Lash is a zealot who has fully bought into this idea of worthiness. He belongs to a backward and cruel society, but he also represents the message that not every Inhuman gets along with every other Inhuman. Lash can, thus, be read as an allegory for humanity and the violence humans can and have inflicted on one another. The Inhumans, Lash's existence makes clear, are just like regular humans — they are not a united front or a monolithic race.

Lash's powers, explained


On the show and in the comic book, Lash wields a blue-tinted energy. We see the lights flicker in the hospital during his attack, and we also see him get blasted by two Inhumans and walk away unscathed:


This all seems to confirm that Lash is probably going to have powers similar to those he has in the comics — the ability to absorb and then wield energy around him. He uses that energy to (usually) vaporize living beings:

Triton explaining Lash's powers in Inhuman No. 3. (Marvel)

What Lash's appearance means

What makes Lash so fascinating (other than the trail of bodies he leaves behind) is that his inclusion is a signal that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wants to follow the story told in the comics — at least to some degree. But we don't know how much of Lash's background the show will incorporate.

A large part of Lash's motivation stems from this idea that he grew up in a society that was largely shunned by mainstream Inhuman civilization and the Inhuman Royal Family that rules it. He grows up hating what those Inhumans represent and holds a deep hostility toward them. In fact, when push comes to shove, it's the Inhuman Queen Medusa who restrains and defeats him:

Medusa pwning Lash in Inhuman No. 3. (Marvel)

Those characters and the setting of Lash's home of Orollan don't yet exist in the Marvel television universe. His appearance could spell a new world to explore, which could come to full fruition in Marvel's 2019 Inhumans movie. There's also a world of exciting and stunning visual effects that these characters bring with them.

But it's unclear how much or how little of that Royal Family and Lash's background Marvel wants to include. Lash could just be a powerful evil menace for a few episodes of the TV show. Whatever the case, we'll all be watching for him in the weeks to come.

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